Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge: Dragonfly Festival

With its wide variety of habitats ranging from the Pecos River and saline sinkholes, to ponds, Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is an ideal place to find dragonflies.

Straddling the Pecos River the Refuge consists of an assortment of water habitats. Numerous seeps and free-flowing springs, oxbow lakes, marshes and shallow water impoundments, water-filled sinkholes, and the refuge namesake, Bitter Lake, make up these unique environments.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities. Visitor Center can be seen in the distance. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities. Visitor Center can be seen in the distance. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities. Refuge trails are open all year from sunrise to sunset, free of charge. Stop by the Visitor Center, when open, Monday through Friday to find out what is happening on the refuge.

Its location in eastern New Mexico, 10 miles northeast of Roswell, puts the Refuge within the range of many eastern, western, and southern dragonfly species. There are close to 100 dragonfly species at the Refuge, but most are uncommon or only found in areas that are not open to the public.

The Friends of Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge sponsor the annual Dragonfly Festival the first weekend following Labor Day (September 9-10, in 2017). © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Friends of Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge sponsor the annual Dragonfly Festival the first weekend following Labor Day (September 9-10, in 2017). © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The visitor center has a guide available to assist in identifying the dragonflies that are found along the Refuge tour route. The species included are those that are common and easy to find.

Many dragonflies can be approached at close range. Since dragonflies are small, you may wish to use binoculars to see some field marks.

If a dragonfly flies off before you can identify it, don’t worry. Generally, if there is one individual of a species, there will be more in the area. Also, since most dragonflies have small territories and it probably will show up again nearby.

An 8-mile, self-guided auto tour around the lakes starts at the visitor center near refuge headquarters. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An 8-mile, self-guided auto tour around the lakes starts at the visitor center near refuge headquarters. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best time to observe dragonflies at Bitter Lake is on sunny and hot days. They do not like cool temperatures or rain, and even clouds will make some species take cover in bushes. During the summer the best time of day is usually mid-to-late morning before the typical afternoon winds pick up. Since the temperature can be over 100 degrees, be sure to wear a hat, sun screen, and LOTS of water—and remember to drink it!

The refuge offers excellent nature photography and wildlife viewing opportunities. The 8-mile wildlife drive is one of the best ways to observe wildlife. If you enjoy dragonfly watching, try taking the short Dragonfly Trail within the first one mile on the auto drive.

The middle unit at Bitter Lake Refuge features refuge headquarters and the auto tour, which winds among lakes, wetlands, croplands, and desert uplands. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The middle unit at Bitter Lake Refuge features refuge headquarters and the auto tour, which winds among lakes, wetlands, croplands, and desert uplands. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Friends of Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge sponsor the annual Dragonfly Festival the first weekend following Labor Day (September 9-10, in 2017).

The Refuge will provide various guided tours; events-including films, guest speakers, and hands-on activities are all free of charge. The entire family is invited, with various crafts and activities for kids—of all ages!

Reservations are required for the various guided tours to reserve your seat on our Refuge vans. Reservation opened August 1. For more information please visit: www.friendsofbitterlake.org website.

The White-faced Ibis is one of more than 350 species of birds that inhabit Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The White-faced Ibis is one of more than 350 species of birds that inhabit Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Schedule of Events flyer is now available for the various tours and activities for this year’s Festival.

Join professional dragonfly experts and see some of the over 90 species of dragonflies and damselflies that inhabit the refuge. Capturing wild specimens, the Dragonfly Tour guide will give you an unclose experience with these fascinating insects.

Join local bird experts and discover some of over 350 bird species that visit the Refuge. Named Wetlands of International Importance and Globally Important Bird Area, Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge provides an outstanding bird watching opportunity for both beginning and experienced bird watchers.

Solitude and contentment that is Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Solitude and contentment that is Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Join a wildlife biologist on the Refuge Wildlife Tour and experience where many wildlife species call home. Visitors will be led to a variety of wildlife field stations where they can observe some of the unique wildlife that inhabit the Refuge. Stations include bird banding, fish trapping, and dragonfly capturing.

Worth Pondering…
A happy life is not built up of tours abroad and pleasant holidays, but of little clumps of violets noticed by the roadside, hidden away almost so that only those can see them who have God’s peace and love in their hearts; in one long continuous chain of little joys, little whispers from the spiritual world, and little gleams of sunshine on our daily work.

—Edward Wilson

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